Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been filmed proudly singing the national anthem as he hosted the raising of the national flag in the recently liberated city of Kherson. Following the humiliating retreat of Russian soldiers from the strategic city last week, Ukraine’s forces quickly marched in, capturing the remaining soldiers and destroying escape routes across the Dnipro river to the southeast. In footage released on Telegram, Mr Zelensky could be seen holding his hand to his heart and singing the national anthem as the national flag was slowly raised up the flagpole. The ceremony marks the official reclaiming of the only provincial capital claimed by Russia since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The Ukrainian President joined hundreds of soldiers and military personnel for the flag raising ceremony.
He was filmed quietly singing the national anthem, while at times he looked in awe of the successes of his country’s military.
As the anthem came to a conclusion, thousands of Kherson locals gathered in the square erupted into applause and cheers.
Mr Zelensky’s trip to Kherson was another in a series of unexpected visits to front-line areas at crucial moments of the war. It was laden with symbolism and the common touch — aimed at boosting the morale of soldiers and civilians alike.
He triumphantly walked the streets of the newly liberated city of Kherson on Monday, hailing Russia’s withdrawal as the “beginning of the end of the war,” but also acknowledging the heavy price Ukrainian troops are paying in their grinding effort to push back the invaders.
Residents draped with flags on their shoulders cheered, cried and shouted in gratitude as Mr Zelensky walked by during his tour of the city.
Danila Yuhrenko, a Kherson local, described the scene as “amazing”, adding: “We’ve been waiting for him for nine months.”
Serhii Yukhmchuk, 47, said he and his wife spent the occupation mostly at home to avoid any Russians and protested by refusing to use the ruble as currency.
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The retaking of Kherson was one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in the nearly 9-month-old war, dealing another stinging blow to the Kremlin. It could serve as a springboard for more advances into occupied territory. President Joe Biden called it a “significant victory” for Ukraine.
“I can do nothing but applaud the courage, determination and capacity of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian military,” he said on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia. “They’ve really been amazing. … we’re going to continue to provide the capability for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves.”
Mr Zelensky awarded medals to soldiers in Kherson and posed with them for selfies while striking a defiant note.
“This is the beginning of the end of the war,” he said. “We are step by step coming to all the temporarily occupied territories.”
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